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The Mick Expertly Balanced Vulgarity and Heart While Taking a Stand

Kaitlin Olson led the canceled Fox comedy, now streaming on Netflix.
  • Kaitlin Olson and Jack Stanton in The Mick (Photo: Netflix)
    Kaitlin Olson and Jack Stanton in The Mick (Photo: Netflix)

    Kaitlin Olson has made a career out of being lovably depraved. She rose to fame as Sweet Dee on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, who, like every character on the show, has morally questionable tendencies and mostly bad intentions. Olson brought a similar sense of debauchery to Mickey, the lead of the canceled Fox sitcom The Mick. The biggest difference between the two, however, is that Mickey had a moral compass that, while slightly askew, allowed her to make everyone around her a (mostly) better person and, in one specific instance, take a stand to support young kids questioning their gender identity.

    When the FBI comes after Mickey’s sister and brother-in-law for fraud, they go on the run, leaving behind their three kids: Sabrina (Sofia Black-D'Elia), Chip (Thomas Barbusca), and Ben (Jack Stanton). Mickey steps up to look after them, at first because she’s been promised a huge payday when her sister returns. She has a contentious relationship with Sabrina and Chip, who seem determined to prove that they’re better and smarter than her. No one in the family is an inherently good person, but Sabrina and Chip have also been ruined by extreme wealth — Mickey does everything she can to make them aware of just how awful they and the people they associate with can be.

    Much like in It’s Always Sunny, the jokes are raunchy and border on offensive, maintaining a delicate balance to not fully cross over into the latter. Both shows use their characters more often than not as examples of what not to do when taking a stance on an issue, which in the case of The Mick mostly meant watching Sabrina and Chip fail again and again, often while Mickey attempted to teach them a lesson. So it was noticeable when the show took the opportunity to come right out and verbalize support for Ben’s gender exploration, exposing the true heart of the series.

    From the start, Ben and Mickey have a special relationship. At seven years old, he’s too young to be fully corrupted by his upbringing. As the youngest child, he’s been mostly ignored, left to decide how he wants to interact with the world on his own. Mickey recognizes and supports Ben’s whims and intelligence, even when his siblings or teachers don’t. She works to make sure he turns out better than all of them.

    In Season 1, Episode 11, “The New Girl,” Ben is reprimanded for wearing the “wrong” clothes to school — he sometimes prefers putting on a dress and heels instead of the pants and sneakers that our gendered society often call for. This enrages Mickey, who pulls Ben out of his school and enrolls him in an all-girls school instead. That backfires, too, when the parent of another student argues that he feels unsafe with a “boy in a dress” using the same bathroom as his daughter. Mickey then goes out of her way to prove in less-than-tasteful fashion that the argument is moot because predators are everywhere and even women like herself can come after kids in the bathroom — and she bursts in on the school’s principal mid-pee to prove it.

    It’s not the perfect way to get the point across, and it’s hard to say exactly how the episode will hold up in years to come. But what feels almost revolutionary, especially for an episode that aired in 2017, is the way Mikey talks to Ben throughout the episode, encouraging him to wear whatever he wants and like whoever he likes. She dutifully listens to him, never telling him he’s wrong or too young to make these decisions for himself. After incorrectly labeling him as transgender in an attempt to get him into the all-girls school, she finds the word “gender-fluid” to accurately describe him during his period of exploration.

    “You’re an educator, educate yourself,” Mickey tells the school’s principal in the episode’s final moments as she passes on what she’s learned. It’s a moment that shows, as in the rest of the series, that it’s possible for the most overindulgent and seemingly selfish person to change and stand up for a marginalized group, even if it takes making some mistakes and maybe one too many vulgar jokes along the way.

    The Mick Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Brianna Wellen is a TV Reporter at Primetimer who became obsessed with television when her parents let her stay up late to watch E.R. 

    TOPICS: The Mick, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Jack Stanton, Kaitlin Olson, Sofia Black-D'Elia, Thomas Barbusca